Clivia nobilis

Clivia nobilis Lindley


Lindley, J. (1828). Clivia nobilis. Edwards‘s Botanical Register 14: t.1182.

The genus was named in the honour of the Duchess of Northumberland whose family name was Clive, and whose garden at Syon House just across the river from Kew was famous at that time.

When the botanist J. Lindley described Clivia in 1828, he based the species on Clivia nobilis which makes this the “type species” of the genus. In other words, the original description of the genus would have been identical to the description for the species. As more species were discovered, the generic description expanded to accommodate them so the description of Clivia nobilis remains the first and most essential concept of the genus.


C. nobilis is only found in the Eastern Cape Province, concentrated towards the coast, from just north of the Sundays River Mouth, extending up along the coast to the Mbashe River area, with colonies occurring as far inland as the vicinity of Grahamstown.


The distribution range of C. nobilis is located in the Albany Centre and the southern part of the Maputaland-Pondoland Region of endemism, with the Albany Centre representing a southwards extension of the Maputaland-Pondoland Region of endemism, but with the presence of Cape floristic and Karroid elements giving the centre its own distinct character. Both also contain enclaves of Afromontane forests.

The coastal areas have a mild climate (9-25°C) and receive 600-900 mm rainfall annually. Inland areas have frost and snow in the winter rising to 45°C maximum summer temperatures and ~250 mm mean annual precipitation.

C. nobilis is found under evergreen forest, low bush (thicket) and amongst dune vegetation. Inland populations are found in wooded kloofs where they grow on riverbanks, rocky outcrops and along forest margins. Populations are usually more exposed on primary coastal dunes with their low canopy cover (2-5 m). In dunes the plants grow in sea sand with lots of humus/decomposing leaves originating from the canopy overhead. Some plants on the top of dunes grow in full sunlight.

Plant size

In dunes away from the sea, C. nobilis plants are long-leaved and large with long extended root systems, growing under high, closed canopy. Mid-way up the dunes, short-leaved plants with smaller rooting systems are found under a low 2-3 m canopy.


The leaves are stiff , slightly rough to smooth with a rough edge, strap-shaped, 300-800 mm long, 25-50 mm broad, with a moderate to weak median stripe. The leaf tip is i ndented to very obtuse .


The inflorescence consists of an umbel of 20-60 flowers borne on a peduncle about 300 mm long The flowers are dark orange with green tips, but vary from pinkish yellow to dark red . They are  pendulous tubular , about 11 mm wide and  25 – 40 mm long. The stamens are inserted at the throat of the tube, as long as the segments and the style is a little longer than the stamens, exserted about 6 mm.


Round to teardrop shaped and usually containing 1 to 2 seeds covered in a distinctive purplish-red membrane, the mature red berries take about 9 months to ripen. The radicle produced by the germinating seed is very thin, about 1.5 mm thick.


The Original Description of Clivia nobilis

Lindley, J. 1828. Clivia nobilis. Edwards’s Botanical Register 14: t.1182.


CLIVIA* nobilis.

Scarlet Clivia.



CLIVIA. – Perianthium tubulosum, sexpartitum, deciduum, laciniis imbricantibus; exterioribus paulo brevioribus. Stamina sex, aequalia, perianthio basin versus inserta; filamenta subulata, subinclusa; antherae versatiles. Ovarium 3-loculare polyspermum. Fructus baccatus, indehiscens, monospermus. Semen carnosum; subrotundum. Herba ( Capensis), radicibus fasciculatis, foliis distichis, floribus umbellatis pendulis. Scapo plano-convexo!


C. nobilis.

Radices carnosi, fasciculati. Folia disticha, coriacea, atroviridia, ligulata, basi vaginantia, apice retusa obliqua, margine scabra. Scapus erectus, plano-convexus, marginatus, versus fastigium sulcatus. Flores circiter 48 v. 50, longe pedunculati, umbellati, penduli. Perianthium tubulosum, clavatum, deciduum, laciniis luteo-coccineis, apice virescentibus, obtusis, duplici ordine imbricatis, versus basin connatis, exterioribus paulo brevioribus,Lachenaliae modo. Stamina 6, fauce tubi inserta, aequalia; filamenta glabra; antherae parvae, ovales, viridi-luteae, versatiles. Ovarium inferum, luteo-viride, 3-loculare, polyspermum, sphaericum, ventricosum; ovula plurima versus basin axeos inserta; stylus filiformis; stigma subtrilobum. Fructus baccatus, indehiscens, ruber, saepius, loculis 2, ovulisque plurimis abortientibus, monospermus; apice perianthio deciduo cicatrizatus. Semen unicum, ascendens, (maturum non vidi), glaberrimum, hyalinum, ovale; hilo parvo suprabasilari; foramine basilari; raphe brevi, elevata. Testa junior minutissime areolata; albumen copiosum . Embryo. . . . . .


This noble plant is supposed to have been one of the discoveries of Mr. Bowie at the Cape of Good Hope, from some of the inner districts of which colony it was probably procured. The plant from which our drawing was made, flowered for the second time in July last, in the princely Garden of his Grace the Duke of Northumberland, at Syon House, and was communicated to us by Mr. Forrest, to whom we are indebted for several observations upon its habit and characters.

At first sight it has so much the appearance of a Cyrtanthus that it may easily be mistaken for one, especially if the detached flowers only are seen. But upon a more minute examination, it will be found that it is not only not referable to that genus, but that it is actually doubtful whether it does not belong to a distinct natural order. In the ‘first’ place, it does not form a bulb, an almost indispensable character of Amaryllideae, from which there is but one other variation hitherto known, namely in Doryanthes. In the second place, the fruit is not a dehiscent dry capsule, but fleshy and indehiscent; and, thirdly, the seeds are not numerous, compressed, and membranous, but solitary, round, and fleshy. It is, therefore, obviously distinct from Cyrtanthus; and there is no other Amaryllideous genus to compare with it, except Eustephia, the fruit of which is still unknown, but which is peculiarly characterised by its 3-toothed filaments, and which is probably not far removed from Phycella.

Perhaps the real affinity of this plant cannot at present be determined: to us it appears most closely allied to Haemanthus, the bulbs of which are very imperfect.

A greenhouse plant, not appearing to require particular care in its cultivation, and propagating either by seeds or suckers.

Roots fleshy, fascicled. Leaves distichous, coriaceous, dark green, strap-shaped, sheathing at the base, retuse and oblique at the apex, rough at the margin. Scape erect, plano-convex, bordered, furrowed towards the summit. Flowers from 48 to 50, on long stalks, pendulous, arranged in an umbel. Perianth tubular, clavate, deciduous; the segments yellowish scarlet, greenish at the apex, obtuse, imbricated in a double row, cohering towards the base, the outer rather shorter than the inner, like those of a Lachenalia. Stamens 6, inserted in the orifice of the tube, equal; filaments smooth; anthers small, oval, greenish yellow, versatile. Ovarium inferior, greenish yellow, 3-celled, many seeded, round, ventricose. Ovula numerous, inserted towards the base of the axis; style filiform; stigma somewhat 3-lobed. Fruit berried, indehiscent, red, generally, in consequence of the abortion of two cells and. most of the ovula, one-seeded, marked at the top by the scar of the fallen perianth. Seed single, ascending, (only seen unripe), very smooth, transparent, oval; hilum small, above the base; foramen in the base; raphe short, raised. Testa , when young, marked with very minute areolations; albumen abundant. Embryo ……

* We have named this genus in compliment to her Grace the Duchess of Northumberland, to whom we are greatly indebted for an opportunity of publishing it. Such a compliment has long been due to the noble family of Clive; and we are proud in having the honour of being the first to pay it.

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